The first chapter of Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor went to Dagestan on Saturday, as Nurmagomedov defended his lightweight title against McGregor. Immediately after, he jumped into McGregor's corner, which kicked off a wild, postfight melee between the two sides.
Feels like there's still unfinished business here, to say the least. McGregor has already mentioned a rematch. What's next for Nurmagomedov, McGregor and the rest of UFC 229's main players? Here's my take.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, lightweight champion
Result: Defeated Conor McGregor via fourth-round submission Next: Tony Ferguson
MMA's white whale. Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson for lightweight supremacy. The UFC has tried to make this fight four times -- only to see it fall through exactly four times. The most recent culprit was downright hard to believe. Ferguson slipped on a cable in a television studio, one week before the fight was supposed to happen.
UFC president Dana White has previously declared he'll never try to make this cursed fight again. You can't blame him for saying that, but this fight demands to be made. Nurmagomedov has earned the right to say he's the No.1 lightweight in the world, but until he beats Ferguson, that's a claim that can be disputed.
It's worth noting, Nurmagomedov has to appear before the Nevada commission for his postfight actions. At this time, it's hard to predict what will come of that. But as long as he's not out for long, Ferguson is the correct opponent.
Conor McGregor, lightweight
Result: Lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov via fourth-round submission Next: Nate Diaz
We always knew we'd be back here someday. I think it's time.
A rematch between McGregor and Nurmagomedov feels inevitable, but it shouldn't happen right away. It can't happen right away. Ferguson is arguably the most deserving title contender in the history of the game at this point. To deny him a shot now would be a criminal act.
So, who does McGregor face in the meantime? His old pal, of course. Diaz is scheduled to face Dustin Poirier next month at UFC 230 in New York. If you've been paying any attention, you know the UFC has had a difficult time building that card and hasn't even officially announced its main event.
Go ahead and put this tease out there: If Diaz wins, he'll face McGregor in their long-awaited trilogy bout, with a UFC title shot on the line. Let Poirier play spoiler, and tell the world he already deserves that shot to begin with, and he'll demolish Diaz to leave no doubt. Make that a five-round fight, because the stakes are uniquely rich.
Do this today, UFC!
Tony Ferguson, lightweight
Result: Defeated Anthony Pettis via second-round TKO Next: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Not only is it the right fight to make, I do think it's a sellable fight. Ferguson hasn't won over the mainstream audience (the "casuals," as he has come to call them), but that win against Pettis, on that big of a stage, has his stock higher than it's ever been.
Would making this fight possibly jeopardize a big-money rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor? Maybe a little. But this fight has to be made for the legitimacy of the division, and even if Ferguson were to beat Nurmagomedov, there would still be so much interest in Nurmagomedov-McGregor II or even Ferguson-McGregor I.
If there's one thing we know about McGregor, it's that all of his fights sell and all feel bigger than the last -- so let's not worry about preserving a rematch we happen to like today, and turning Ferguson into the sacrifice for that.
Anthony Pettis, lightweight
Result: Lost to Tony Ferguson via second-round TKO Next: Jose Aldo
The timing on this would need to be figured out, as Pettis suffered a hand injury on Saturday and Aldo has said he's ready to go, and wants to fight at UFC 231 on Dec. 8 in Toronto. Aldo is also still in title contention at 145 pounds, so he'd obviously take that into consideration as it comes to any move up in weight.
But the point here is: This fight needs to happen. Whatever the timing needs to be, let's figure it out. These two were supposed to fight back in 2013, when they were both on the top of the game, but Pettis suffered a knee injury.
This is the kind of fight where it's like, if these two retire without ever facing each other, we'll all say, "Man, we really should have figured out a way to make that happen at one point or another." Let's not make that mistake.
Derrick Lewis, heavyweight
This is where the "Brock Lesnar title shot" really starts to mess with things. Lewis is deserving of a title shot now, having won nine of his last 10. Miocic is also deserving of an immediate rematch with Daniel Cormier, as he is the longest-reigning heavyweight champion in the history of the company.
But, deserving or not, here we are. Cormier is waiting on that Lesnar fight, which we believe will take place sometime relatively early next year. Until then, there are two options for the other heavyweights: take other fights or sit and wait.
No one could blame either of these two for wanting to sit and wait, almost out of protest, but if they do want to take a fight, this is the pretty obvious one.